Program of Study

The Department of Music revised its undergraduate curriculum in April 2020, as outlined below. To see the former requirements for majors, click here.

Course Requirements

Class of 2021:

Concentrators may elect either to fulfill the former requirements, or fulfill the revised requirements listed below, using the Junior Seminar from fall of 2019 in place of the new, credited Junior Seminar.

Classes of 2022, 2023 and 2024:

Concentrators are strongly encouraged to complete the requirements below. Students should consult the archived Undergraduate Announcement for details of the previous requirements.

Class of 2025 and beyond: 
Students majoring in music take a total of 11 courses in the major: three prerequisite courses (MUS 105, one M&M course, one C&C course); two additional courses in Culture & Criticism; two additional courses in Materials & Making (one of the three total M&M courses, including the M&M prerequisite, must include MUS 106, MUS 205, MUS 206, MUS 311, MUS 312 or an alternative approved by the DUS); three additional electives, two of which should be at the 300-level or higher; and a credit-bearing Junior Seminar. Music majors in the Program in Music Performance certificate may use one performance course (such as MPP 213, 214, 215, 216, 219) as a departmental. Concentrators design their program of study in close consultation with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, and are strongly encouraged meet with the DUS in their first year to plan potential paths through the curriculum, as some upper-level courses have their own prerequisites. In general, we encourage students to lead with their strengths but also to take risks and step out of their comfort zones, principles that should guide their course choices.

The two distribution areas, listed below, are meant to be broad and relatively inclusive, while also serving to encourage students to look at courses they might otherwise not be inclined to consider. Note that some courses are listed in both areas; such courses can only fill the requirement for one of the areas, at the student’s discretion.

Junior & Senior Year Independent Work

Independent work in the Department of Music can take many forms, including research and writing about a topic of interest, composing new music, or a combination of the two. Even within that range, there is enormous flexibility: essays might focus on performance practices, cultural studies, historical research, analytical or theoretical studies, and more; while composition projects might take the shape of, for example, an album of songs, a string quartet, an instrument-building project, a music-theater work or scenes from an original opera, an orchestral piece, or improvisation-centered work. Hybrid projects that combine written work with compositional work (in the broadest sense) are also possible and encouraged. 

Junior Independent Work

The nature of junior independent work can vary greatly. For reference, it might consist of a research paper of approximately 30–40 pages, or an original composition of roughly 6–10 minutes (which would typically include a short paper detailing motivations and context for the composition). These are only guidelines, and the eventual scale of the work will depend on its nature. The specific goals for the project are worked out with a faculty advisor (identified during the fall semester), resulting in a proposal submitted to the advisor and Director of Undergraduate Studies before the end of fall semester. The proposal consists of a summary of the project's aims and context, an outline, and references to related works (bibliography for research papers, associated repertoire for compositions, and other material as appropriate to the project).

Juniors should begin to identify a faculty advisor for their senior thesis in the spring of their junior year.

Senior Independent Work

The senior thesis is a year-long project devised by the student in conjunction with a faculty adviser, presented as a research paper of approximately 60–80 pages, or an original composition of roughly 12–20 minutes (including a short accompanying paper). As with junior independent work, these parameters are only guidelines, and the eventual scale of the work will depend on its nature.  The topics for junior and senior independent work are often related, though they do not have to be. The thesis grade is the average of the grades given by the faculty adviser and a second faculty reader.

Senior Exam

On a date arranged by the Department, senior concentrators must take a final departmental examination. This is conducted in the form of a public presentation of the student’s senior thesis, followed by an oral exam and defense.

Performance for Music Majors & Study Abroad

We urge our students to take an active part in performing music. Music Majors can involve themselves in performance study by taking vocal or instrumental lessons, the cost of which are completely covered by the Department of Music. It is recommended that prospective and current Majors without at least minimal keyboard skills study piano. Students can also gain exposure to performance by participating in one of the Departmental Ensembles

Music concentrators are encouraged to explore the many study abroad opportunities offered at Princeton. Among these is the unique collaboration Princeton maintains with the Royal College of Music in London, in which students have the opportunity to participate in a five-year double-degree program (A.B. and M.M.). Students spend the fall semester of the junior year in London. Interested current and prospective music majors should email the director of the Program in Music Performance, Michael Pratt, for further details.